Pig Profile: Babirusa

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    Feral pigs have been in the news as of late because of their growing presence around the country. But have you ever wondered about other feral pigs around the world? Babirusas are not considered nuisance pigs, and they are now a protected species.

    I've always been fascinated by this pig since I did research on them over seven years ago. They are especially interesting because of their tusk curvature and sharp, lower teeth.

    These pigs are native to the Togian islands of Indonesia: Sula, Buru, and Sulawesi.

    And although they are classified under the pig species, there is debate over whether or not they actually belong to the hippopotamus family.

    But their intestinal and stomach tract is similar to that of their domestic brethren, and they do exhibit the same behaviors such as rolling around in the mud to protect their skins from the sun and foraging for food. They have course fur, with little to none around their bodies. Their appearance ranges from brown to grey, and they are also divided into four species: Buru, Togian,Bola Batu and the North Sulawesi.

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    How are they different from other pigs?

    They are different from warthogs, which are found in Africa; just think of the babirusa as the Asian feral pig.

    These are incredible pigs that can live 24 years, their sense of smell and hearing is superior to your domestic pig. These are animals suited to deal with the tropics, but their habitat primarily lies in water areas such as lakes and rivers.

    The babirusa pig is most notable for its curved tusks protruding from the upper jawbone, with straight tusks sticking from the lower jaw. The lower tusks are mainly used for fighting off predators, but the upper tusks are believed to be used for interlocking with another babirusa for mating competition. The name babirusa translates into pig deer, because of its unconventional appearance. The upper tusks are similar to that of a rodent's teeth in that it can grow so long it can protrude through the animal's skull. To prevent this, they must regular grind their tusks against bark and other rough surfaces in the same way rodents need to chew to wind down its teeth. The female pig can usually be found with smaller or no tusks and are usually the ones traveling in herds. The females stick together to raise the young while the males usually embark on their own. Litters usually come in two, and a herd can usually run up to 8 at a time.

    This is a tropical pig that is a forager like the domestic pig. Their diet comprises fruits, roots and nuts, and they are also meat eaters. However, they will mostly eat insect larvae and will only eat the meat of smaller animals when desperate. Unlike your domestic pig, babirusas have thin legs, which are ideal for swimming through swamps and lakes.

    Because of their fierce tusks and thick hides, few predators will mess with this pig, other than feral dogs, but humans are the biggest threat to the pig, along with deforestation.

    Babirusa and Humans

    In Indonesia, babirusas are considered a protected species, and they are susceptible to poachers. These are wild pigs by nature, and domestication is outright impossible, but as babirusas become more threatened, you're going to see more conservation efforts.

    The babirusa has been so revered in history and folklore that various cultures have imitated them throughtribal masks and wall art. In certain Hindu ruins in Bali, you can see the babirusa pig painted on old courts on the ceiling.

    Numerous folk tales have been told about babirusa, including one legend that tells of them being able to hang from trees.

    Because of its rare and odd stature among humans, Indonesians usually give their meat as a special gift.

    Let's hope this wonderful pig doesn'tend up on the endangered species list anytime soon.
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